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  • Writer's pictureColleen Turner

One for the money, two for the show…

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Three to get ready now, go cat, go!

Stew. Is there anything better? It’s comforting on a cold winter’s day. Leftovers freeze like a dream. And it is just plain delicious.

I wish I could remember where I first heard about this recipe for Three-Stir-Stew. I do know I was making it as far back as 1992...30 years ago…about half my life.

This particular iteration of the dish sits so clearly in my mind because when I was first recovering from what would turn out to be my last bout of complications from Lyme Disease, I prepared it for my cousin Kathy’s family. She had opened her heart and home to me as I struggled to return to the workforce after an exceptionally long fight with chronic meningitis (a result of that nasty little aforementioned spirochete).

The day Kathy spent a "week" with me in Newburyport, circa 2010. Suffice it to say, it was an action-packed day.

Kathy is my first cousin, the oldest and only daughter of my Mom's brother, Mart. As kids, she always gravitated to my sister, they being so close in age. Of course, we were pals, too, but during family visits, I spent most of my time with her brothers, Bobby & being just "kids."

Once we all started hitting 21, age did not matter. Frankly, as a group, my first cousins are about the coolest people I know and I count myself blessed to call them family, as well as friends.

Anyway, I'm seven years younger than Kathy and I worried living together could cause a rift or that we might find out we are not as awesome and cool as we thought. But happily, my approximate 6-month stay only solidified our friendship. Sure we are cousins ("...identical cousins all the way, one pair of matching bookends, different as night and day"...see the whole Patty Duke Show theme song here), but those shared months with her, Steve, Dan, Caroline and Greg were instrumental in my recovery.

Breaking into song is nothing unusual in my family and at Quinobequin it was a common occurrence! Subbing Colleen for Patty, Kathy and I had us an instant duet. Click on the image to listen to the original score.

We had more than a few giggles over those months. Steve using their wedding gift of throw pillows to insulate a drafty window; calling each other from across the hall because it was too chilly to get out from under the covers (and Kathy cursing as she ran downstairs to get the cordless phone only to find out it was me)...NOTE: I had my own phone line installed; Greg getting caught blow drying his diaper so he would be praised in the morning and get a treat; Caroline, she of gorgeous naturally curly hair, wanted nothing more than poker straight "down hair" like mine; getting just a little tipsy with Steve as we enjoyed our own take on a scotch tasting when Kathy was out one night "counting" at the movies; Dan being the wonderful first born as only he could be; and so many other terrific memories.

But what made it extra special was the connecting. It was all about music – listening and singing; delicious meals by candle light; long chick chats and laughing, always, always laughing about something.

As I mentioned, I was still in recovery mode. Even though I was in my early 30s, the simplest tasks wiped me out. The day I decided to cook my favorite stew, I dragged myself to the grocery store and "packy" (I needed to get wine...for cooking and drinking), then headed back to the house, took a short nap and started the meal.

I'm pretty fussy when it comes to meat. I don't want to find unidentifiable or unchewable bits in my meat or chicken, so I usually buy larger cuts and then trim to within an inch of its life. I assure you, when I'm done surgically removing sinew, silver skin, tendons and anything else that might qualify as what I call a "dooger," the meat is pristine and you can dig into any dish I serve with reckless abandon.

Please do not buy pre-cut stew beef! Grab a nice piece of chuck, about 2.5-3lbs, with ample marbling. This is a perfect example. Then plan to cut into bite sized one-inch cubes. If you find some grizzle or silver skin, trim and move on.

Three-Stir-Stew is particularly wonderful because there is no searing or day-long waiting on a slow cooker. The oven allows it to cook evenly and everything else is pretty much a dump-and-go. If you want to go real old-school, serve with refrigerator rolls to help sop up all the gravy goodness.


1 28-ounce can crushed or pureed tomato

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon “Better than Bullion” beef flavor

2/3 cup dry red wine

2 cups beef broth (salt free)

1/4 cup instant Tapioca

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 bay leaves

2.5 - 3lbs chuck, cut into 1” cubes and trimmed of all fat and sinew

4-5 chopped carrots

3-4 chopped celery stalks

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 box frozen peas

1/2 box frozen corn, optional

1/2 box frozen green beans, optional


Preheat oven to 325ºF

In 5-6 quart dutch oven, mix first 17 ingredients, from tomato to bay leaves, stirring well.

Chop carrots, celery and onion to appropriate bite sizes, but not too small as to cause them to overcook. Add to Dutch oven and stir.

Cut chuck into 1” cubes and add to dutch oven. Mix once more.

Cover pot and place on middle rack in oven. Cook for approximately three hours.

Take out and stir after one hour.

Take out after hour two, add peas and corn, and stir.

Check after another 45 minutes...take out and stir one last time.

If meat is tender, you are ready to serve, if not, return to oven for last 15 minutes.

Three-stir-stew in all its tomato-y, beefy goodness.

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